tv Cavuto on Business FOX Business February 21, 2016 2:30am-3:01am EST
thanks so much for watching. and remember, you can't take it with you. >> a ball club older than mighty casey... >> they were recognized as the best team of the 1860s. >> their 155-year-old baseball card... >> we are looking at a very significant piece of baseball history here. >> and she's looking at a very strange inheritance. >> he's my great-great-uncle on my dad's side. >> which one is he? >> now here's the payoff pitch. >> one of the big ones. this was a family heirloom. >> will there be joy in mudville... >> he was looking for a piece of the action, but i didn't know that. >> ...with jamie at the bat? [ door creaks ] [ wind howls ] [ thunder rumbles ] [ bird caws ] ♪
>> i'm jamie colby, and i'm in the berkshire mountains on my way to great barrington, massachusetts. i'm meeting a woman whose ancestor played on one of the great teams in the early days of baseball. his picture is on her strange inheritance, which may just be the world's oldest baseball card. >> my name is florence sasso. my great-great-uncle archibald mcmahon was a member of the 1860s atlantic nine baseball team. i inherited this card from my mother when she passed away. >> hi. i'm jamie. >> hi. i'm florence. >> heard you have a great story and a very strange inheritance. also heard you're a new york girl. >> yes. >> i'm from queens. >> i'm a brooklyn girl. >> uh-oh. 75-year-old flo lives alone and runs an electrolysis business from her house. what a lovely home. she explains that fate has handed her a very unusual inheritance in the form
of a 2 1/2-by-4-inch antique baseball card. oh, my goodness. is this what i think it is, florence? may i touch it? >> sure. >> look at the players. 1860. >> before the civil war. >> and a relative of yours is in here? >> my great-great-uncle archibald mcmahon is in here. >> which one is he? >> we don't know. it hasn't been identified. >> well, can you make a guess on which one he might be? is there any resemblance to you or your parents? >> no. i couldn't figure it out. i was just looking at the ears, because that side of the family had big ears. >> who were the brooklyn atlantics? >> i think it's the oldest baseball team in history in brooklyn. ♪ >> at least one of the oldest, says ed elmore, captain of today's incarnation of the brooklyn atlantics. so brooklyn atlantics started when? >> they played a long time. they were recognized
as the best team of the 1860s. >> baseball before the civil war? you can look it up. the first officially recorded game is actually played in 1846. and within 15 years, the sport is on the verge of a boom. these guys practicing today in long island, new york, use the same rules and equipment as old archibald did back then. was pitching different? >> the first 40 years, actually, of baseball was underhand pitching. for the first 20 years, if a ball was caught on a bounce it was an out. it was thought of as a gentlemen's game at the very beginning just by who was playing, not necessarily by how they played. >> so who is archie mcmahon? a butcher in brooklyn is about all flo knows. that's a sign of how organized baseball is evolving and becoming more democratic. it's no longer just a game played by wealthier men -- doctors, lawyers, and bankers.
and although flo can't identify which one of these gentlemen is that great-great-uncle on her father's side, we can i.d. couple of his teammates. at far left is chris smith. two men to the right is shortstop dickey pearce, who's credited with inventing the bunt. looks like a straitjacket. baseball uniforms have really changed over the years. i can see why. got to love this cap, though. take me out to the ballgame. so this is the bat. i see they're not playing with gloves. what about the balls? >> well, i have just the man to talk to for that. wild horse. >> wait. wild horse? >> that's his nickname. he runs the bases with wild abandon. >> you make those? >> i start with a rubber center, two cords of yarn. everything was handmade. >> ready?
>> all right. >> really? oh, no. no gloves. aah! oh. it didn't hurt that bad. have you heard of the name archibald mcmahon? >> he's listed in the roster of the 1860 atlantics. actually, he played center field, and he batted third. so that's an indication that he was one of the better hitters. >> after the 1860 season, however, he becomes a bit of an enigma. he may have played for a pro team in manhattan, but census records after the civil war show him working as a butcher in san francisco. after that, his only appearance in the public record is a mention in the 1928 obituary of his younger brother, john, a civil war veteran. >> in the obituary, it talks about his brother, how he loved baseball. >> the obituary reads, "he had a picture in his home of the original atlantics team,
of which his brother, archibald mcmahon, was a member." when they mention it in an obit, you know the card is a true family heirloom. flo's father, joseph, is 17 years old when his uncle john dies. it becomes his strange inheritance. but it's his wife, mildred, who keeps it safe in their brooklyn home. >> my mother had had it in a fanny farmer box in a secret drawer in a piece of our furniture. >> when florence grows up, she moves to massachusetts, gets married, and then divorced. over time, the family is drawn back together by old age and illness. eventually, flo convinces her parents to move up to massachusetts and live with her. >> the fellow i was dating at the time was an architect, and he designed an addition for us. >> how much did that cost? >> $125,000. >> did you have that money? >> no. i had to remortgage the house. >> flo's dad dies in 1995.
her mom, mildred, inherits the card. mildred is well aware flo has gone into debt and wishes she could help. but it never strikes her that she has the means until great-great-uncle archibald comes up in a genealogy class at the senior center. so he suggested that that card could be worth what? that's next. >> but first, our "strange inheritance" quiz question. who in 1888 declared baseball "the american game"? queen victoria of england, indian chief sitting bull, or poet walt whitman? the answer in a moment. need to hire fast?
♪ >> so, who first declared baseball "the american game"? if you picked walt whitman, you're right. in 1888, he wrote... [ crowd cheering ] >> long before the brooklyn dodgers and ebbets field, these guys, known as the atlantics nine, are kings of that borough's diamonds. this 155-year-old picture of the team has been passed down in florence sasso's family ever since. one of the team's stars, archibald mcmahon, was her great-great-uncle.
flo's mom, mildred, is caretaker of the card for years. she keeps it squirreled away in a candy box and takes it with her when she moves into flo's house in great barrington, massachusetts. but neither she nor her daughter knows which guy in the picture is uncle archie. what'd she tell you about it? >> she said, "put this in with your genealogy." >> in the spring of 2015, flo's been digging into their family background at the free genealogy program at the local senior center. so do you bring the card to show the class? >> i brought the card to the senior center. he said, "oh, my god. it's perfect." >> "he" is volunteer steve strommer, who runs the class. >> my interest in genealogy started a long time ago. but it's taken on a life of its own, and it's pretty much an obsession. we couldn't find too much on archibald. but that was a very old card. and she said, "how much is this?" and i said, "well, i'll see
if i can find out." >> are you thinking to yourself, "i really have something valuable here"? >> yes, i did. >> especially after steve spots on the internet an 1865 brooklyn atlantics card. it had gone for $92,000 at auction in 2013. florence's card is five years older and may be even more valuable. >> i used to wonder, "why do people jump up and down when something exciting happens?" and here i was doing that. >> pushing 101, flo's mother, mildred, isn't quite jumping up and down. but if she can help pay off the addition flo built for her, she's definitely up for some moneyball. florence, who has no children to pass the card on to, is game as well. that's when steve strommer suggests contacting an auction house. on your behalf? >> yes. he made the connection. >> i was just, you know, doing my job, just trying to facilitate getting
this card in the right hands. >> strommer takes the photo home, scans it, and sends it to chris ivy, who specializes in sports memorabilia at heritage auctions in dallas. >> when the first e-mail came in with images, i showed it to one of my other experts. and we thought, "it looks right from the images, and we are looking at a very significant piece of baseball history here." the photo was in good shape. and the overall condition of the card is very strong. >> of course, it's not exactly the kind of card later generations will collect with bubble gum and wax packs. >> there was no bubble gum involved with this card, no. i don't think bubble gum was around, actually, until the early 1900s. it's considered a carte de visite, a cdv. >> a carte de visite, or cdv, was more like a business card or a souvenir handout at a time when photography was still a novelty. >> i think it was because they were the champions of the league and were proud of that and wanted something to commemorate it.
>> while chris and his team evaluate the card, florence feels steve's way off base. he's taken control not only of the process but the card itself. i think this next part of the story goes under the heading "don't mess with a girl from brooklyn." >> was he looking for a piece of the action? >> he was looking for piece of the action, but i didn't know that. i went down to his house, and i said, "my mother would like to have the photograph back." and he said, "oh, it's safe with me." and i said, "no, and i'd like to give you some money for the work that you did at home." and he said no. >> if there was any disconnect, it was with flo, who, i guess, wanted to know if i was going to charge her anything. and she kept asking me quite often, you know, "keep track of your hours." >> i said, "just give me back the picture." >> and then, she would say, "i have to talk to my lawyer," and all of that. and i said, "fine with me." >> you had to get that card back. >> yes. >> that's next.
♪ >> so, who was the first president to invite a professional baseball team to the white house? it's ulysses s. grant. the cincinnati red stockings, the first professional team, were grant's guests in june 1869. >> spring 2015, great barrington, massachusetts, and life's thrown florence sasso a curveball. she's in a feud with steve strommer, the genealogy instructor
at her local senior center. >> and i went to the doctor. they doubled my blood-pressure medication 'cause i was so upset about him. >> she's taken a family heirloom, this 1860 baseball card of the brooklyn atlantics, which includes her great-great-uncle archibald mcmahon, and given it to steve. it may be the oldest baseball card in existence. and he's researching its value. but it appears to florence that he doesn't want to give it back. >> you went yourself to the gentleman's house to get it? >> yes. he really wanted to hold on to it. but i didn't trust him with it. >> so essentially, he was trying to help you. he just wanted to be paid. >> yes. >> i may have half tongue-in-cheek, half joking, said, "well, i'm your agent. 10%." but i wasn't really gonna charge her with that. >> you didn't want to pay him. >> i was going to give him a generous gift. but you're not allowed to give them even five cents if they're a volunteer of the town.
>> at this point, both steve and florence learned that town employees may not receive additional income from their official duties. >> the interaction that was going on about being reimbursed was prior to my knowledge about the ethics of town employees taking money. >> so steve gives the photo back to florence. having benched steve, she reaches out herself to heritage auctions. a representative flies to massachusetts to bring the card in for authentication. heritage shows up at your house. >> within 24 hours. >> but while the auction house gets to work, flo's mother is admitted to the hospital with pneumonia. >> may 13th. she was 100 and sound of mind right till the end. and every night, she would just say, "thank you for taking care of me," and then a big smile, and she'd say, "did we get the money yet?" >> later that day, mildred sasso passes on. and what may be the world's oldest baseball card is now
florence's strange inheritance. it doesn't take long to confirm the card is real. >> given the fact that it was in florence's family for nearly 160 years, that's great provenance. and provenance is always key. >> the 1928 obituary of archibald's brother, john, provides a crucial piece of evidence of the card's authenticity. >> that newspaper obituary noted that john was an ardent fan of baseball and he had an original photo of the brooklyn atlantics. so that obituary was referring to this very card. >> remember the 1865 brooklyn atlantics card that sold for $92,000? that kind of money would go a long way to paying off the debt flo incurred when she took in her parents. is her card in that ballpark? chris ivy thinks it is and knows exactly where to find out. >> one of the big ones. this was a family heirloom.
>> that's next. so is this. all right. let's send one down the pike. let's see what you got. what's your strange inheritance story? we'd love to tell it. send me an e-mail or go to our website -- strangeinheritance.com. on the floor! everybody down! nobody move! on the floor! hey, do something! oh, i'm not a security guard. i'm a security monitor. i only notify people if there's a robbery. there's a robbery! why monitor a problem if you don't fix it? that's why lifelock does more than free credit monitoring to protect you from identity theft.
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♪ >> now back to "strange inheritance." >> in 1860, florence sasso's great-great-uncle and his teammates on the brooklyn atlantics posed for this photo. 155 years later, it may be the oldest baseball card in existence. florence is about to learn just how valuable that makes it. the auction house estimates its value at 50 grand-plus. that would help cover the $125,000 she spent remodeling her home to make room for her elderly parents.
then again, another brooklyn atlantics card recently went for $92,000. an extra 40 grand would really help. in july 2015, enthusiasts from around the country gather in chicago for the national sports collectors convention. >> $9,500. now to $10,000. where are my cubs fans now? >> the highlight of the auction -- flo's 2 1/2-by-4-inch strange inheritance featuring the pre-civil war brooklyn atlantics. >> one of the big ones. this was a family heirloom. >> how proud are you when you see your family card in a catalog? >> everybody was so excited because they didn't know about baseball before the civil war. >> and it was a bit of brooklyn that you could bring to this town. >> that's right. >> you can follow the auction online, but florence is having computer problems. even so, she feels the same nervous anticipation palpable in that room. >> earliest known team card that we're aware of.
what do we have for lot 009? >> $70,000. >> $70,000. this is gonna go big. $70,000. now to go to $75,000. >> from the start, the bidding is fierce. >> we've got captains of industry and people that are millionaires, billionaires. it's just people that have a passion to collect things. >> $85,000. now to bid $90,000. $95,000 to you, sir. i go you. $100,000. now to $110,000. >> like a sandy koufax fastball, the bidding quickly blows away the $50,000 estimate. >> $110,000. now to $120,000. this is really a smithsonian-type piece here. $120,000. now to $130,000. >> most collectors go into a live auction with a game plan. but you can get enthralled with the moment. so, you know, throw caution to the wind and start bidding. >> $130,000. now to $140,000. $150,000. now to $160,000. you want $155,000? you gonna walk away for five grand? $150,000. i've got it right here. who's gonna beat him? $150,000. anyone else? $150,000. bid $160,000? who's gonna beat him? anyone else now? anyone else?
to white. $150,000. [ applause ] thanks very much. >> after the auction house commission is added, it brings the total to $179,000. and the winning bidder? >> a well-known 19th-century collector, but he didn't want to be revealed. >> the good news comes to florence from a surprising source. >> how'd you learn about it selling? >> steve, the genealogist, was following it on the internet. >> i saw the very end of the bidding for the card. and i called up flo right away and said, "this is great." >> and he called to say it was sold for $179,000. >> that beats flo's wildest expectations. >> i was just hoping to clear my mortgage, actually. >> so basically, the money that you'll get from your family card will help you defer the cost of taking care of mom and dad. >> almost to the penny. >> are you resolved now that whatever happened
in the past is the past? >> absolutely. >> it worked out okay? >> i'm very happy. >> so is steve strommer, that he and flo are friends again. >> we're like brother and sister, basically. you know, she comes in. we'll go through a little bit of genealogy, find what happened to archibald mcmahon. >> and maybe someday they'll even figure out which one of these guys really is old uncle archie. so what ever became of the old brooklyn atlantic dynasty? up until 1869, all the players were amateurs. two years later, the national association of professional base ball players was formed. but the atlantics couldn't afford the cost of the new league, so they didn't join. some of their best players took a walk and signed up with pro teams. i don't get to walk. i got to hit the ball. all right. let's send one down the pike. let's see what you got.
oh. i'm jamie colby for "strange inheritance." and remember -- you can't take it with you. >> it stands in the way. >> it's just her house in the middle of the block. >> she won't sell out. >> the 84-year-old seen here turned down $1 million payout. >> he's caught in the middle. >> i promised her that i wouldn't let them take her away. >> that's a really big promise. >> what's "up" with that? >> people from all over the country and even around the world have stopped by this house. >> they put balloons on the house, and that's how it became the "up" house. >> it is amazing. i can't believe that she held out. [ door creaks ] [ wind howls ] [ thunder rumbles ] [ bird caws ] ♪